St. Cloud Company Training Dogs to Prevent Terrorism [VIDEO]
ST. CLOUD - A St. Cloud company that trains dogs is picking up more business across the state and country with the growing threat of international terrorism.
Dogs for Defense primary focus is training dog to detect explosives. They've also trained dogs to spot anything from narcotics to bed bugs. In their open warehouse space (located in East St. Cloud), the floor is lined with boxes, suitcases and cans for realistic training exercises. There's even a locker room upstairs used for scenario training.
"We do a lot of work in schools, whether it's a bomb threat or a drug dog searching a school, we find ourselves in lockers all the time," Dogs for Defense CEO Dan Hughes says.
Hughes has an expansive and unique background in law enforcement that led him to this point. He was hired by the Secret Service after college and spent five years in New York City. During his time there, he spent a lot of time with the Clinton's at their home in Chappaqua.
Hughes found his love for training dogs after the Secret Service building was destroyed in the 9/11 attacks. He had an opportunity to train a detection dog.
"I just found my passion and that's led me all around the world working with dogs."
The company started around 10 years ago by serving contracts overseas in the Middle East. One of the biggest was clearing explosives for the U.S. Embassy building expansion in Afghanistan.
"We were able to utilize our dogs to go in there, they did recover many unexploded munitions that were perhaps 30-years-old from when the Russians occupied the area."
A couple years ago, they also trained 20 dogs that went to Baghdad to work with the U.S. Embassy.
Dogs for Defense recently shifted its focus to the domestic market due to the growing threat of terror groups like ISIS. Their dogs are now anywhere from the Mall of America to local sporting events.
"Every time there's a home game, we have a dog down at Target Field," Hughes says.
One of their current dogs, a young black lab fittingly named Kirby, also has the goal of becoming a regular at Target Field.
Dogs typically start training when they’re 1 or 2. Training usually takes 10-13 weeks. When going through mock exercises, they’re rewarded with toys and positive reinforcement whenever they make the correct find.
Hughes says the biggest challenge is preparing the dogs for their future environment. While working on scene, they could be dealing with loud crowds of people, escalators and loud noises.
The dogs are not mean or aggressive. The company trains them to be accustomed to large groups of people. Hughes says they even allow others to interact with the dogs.
"Any two-year-old can come pet the dog and we're okay with it."
Hughes says working with dogs and knowing they’re keeping people safe is the most rewarding part of the job.
"It has a very high reward potential. It can make a great difference. We'll keep looking for bombs as long as there are bad guys out there."
You can find more information on Dogs For Defense on their Facebook page.